One of the worst hidden dangers in woodworking comes from the key material all woodworkers use in their craft: the wood. A number of species from around the world are known to cause allergic, toxic, infectious, or respiratory reactions.

This list of woods compiled by Fine Woodworking author Stanley Wellborn for an article in Fine Woodworking issue #9 includes most of the species that are known to cause a reaction of some type. Although researchers point out that not everyone is sensitive to these woods, they warn that woodworkers should be particularly cautious when sanding or milling these woods. For more information on health hazards in the shop, read Wellborn's companion articles by clicking on the links at the bottom of this page.

Respiratory
Ailments*
Skin and Eye Allergies  Wood Type

 x

  Arbor vitae (Thuja standishii)
 

x

Ayan (Distemonanthus benthamianus)
 

x

Blackwood, African (Dalbergia melanoxylon)

 x

x

Boxwood, Knysna (Gonioma kamassi)
 

x

Cashew (Anacardium occidentale)

x

x

Cedar, Western red (Thuja plicata)
 

Cocobolo (Dalbergia retusa)
 

x

Cocus (Brya ebenus)

x

  Dahoma (Piptadeniastrum africanum)

x

x

Ebony (Diospyros)

x

x

Greenheart (Ocotea rodiaei)

x

  Guarea (Guarea thompsonii)

x

x

Ipe [lapacho] (Tabebuia ipe)

x

x

Iroko (Chlorophora excelsa)

x

x

Katon (Sandoricum indicum)

x

x

Mahogany, African (Khaya ivorensis)

 

x

Mahogany, American (Swietenia macrophylla)

x

x

Makore (Tieghemella beckelii)

x

x

Mansonia (Mansonia altissima)

x

x

Obeche (Triplochiton scleroxylon)

x

x

Opepe (Nauclea trillesii)

x

x

Peroba rosa (Aspidosperma peroba)

x

x

Peroba, white (Paratecoma peroba)
 

x

Ramin (Gonystylus bancanus)
 

x

Rosewood, Brazilian (Dalbergia nigra)
 

x

Rosewood, East Indian (Dalbergia latifolia)
 

x

Satinwood, Ceylon (Chloroxylon swietenia)
 

x

Satinwood, West Indian (Fagara flava)

x

  Sequoia Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)  

x

  Sneezewood (Ptaeroxylon obliquum)

x

  Stavewood (Dysoxylum muelleri)
 

x

Sucupira (Bowdichia nitida)
 

x

Teak (Tectona grandis)

x

x

Wenge (Millettia laurentit)  
 

x

Black Walnut (Juglans nigra)  

* The category "respiratory ailments'' includes bronchial disorders, asthma, rhinitis and mucosal irritations; "skin and eye allergies" includes contact dermatitis, conjunctivitis, itching and rashes.

This information has been taken from:
- National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health
- International Labor Organization Encyclopedia of Occupational Safety and Health
- Sculpture in Wood by Jack C. Rich, Da Capo Press, New York, 1977.
- "Toxic Woods" by Brian Woods and C. D. Calnan, British
- Journal of Dermatology, Vol. 95, Supplement 13, 1976 (an excellent source on skin reactions to woods, with case histories and an inclusive list of toxic species).